By Gavin Stoker | on November 16, 2010
Price When Reviewed: £899
Pros: Compatible with over 40 lenses; unique Foveon X3 CMOS sensor; chunky build and rugged feel.
Cons: No Live View; very noisy at higher ISOs.
With its bulky body trumpeting a semi-professional status, Sigma’s new digital SLR - the Sigma SD15 - offers 14.06 effective megapixels. But, because its unique sensor is triple layered, with one silicon-embedded layer of photodetectors each for absorbing red, green and blue, the pixel count for any JPEG shot is actually around 4.6 megapixels. The best way to retain maximum quality is to shoot unadulterated Raw files instead, which is where Sigma cameras come into their own.
The company claims the sensor array translates into more lifelike colours and therefore a more realistic, three-dimensional effect. This isn’t a camera for pointing and shooting. There aren’t the usual truck-load of automatic, subject-optimised shooting modes squeezed around the top-plate dial, just the creative quartet of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual.
There’s no video facility here, nor HDMI output. When it comes to action photography, maximum shooting speed is a fairly modest three frames per second, albeit as Raw files for up to 21 consecutive frames.
Under normal circumstances, light sensitivity stretches from a modest ISO100 to ISO1600, the sort of spec you’d find on a snapshot camera but, by dipping into the menu system, this can be extended to ISO50 or ISO3200 at either end of the scale. Don’t bother though, as above ISO800 image noise levels are spectacularly bad.
Probably the best audience for the SD15 is the fine art photographer happy to lend their images a different look and stand apart from the crowd.